In the applied sciences, normative science is a type of information that is developed, presented, or interpreted based on an assumed, usually unstated, preference for a particular outcome, policy or class of policies or outcomes.[1] Regular or traditional science does not presuppose a policy preference, but normative science, by definition, does.[2] Common examples of such policy preferences are arguments that pristine ecosystems are preferable to human altered ones, that native species are preferable to nonnative species, and that higher biodiversity is preferable to lower biodiversity.[3][4]

In more general philosophical terms, normative science is a form of inquiry, typically involving a community of inquiry and its accumulated body of provisional knowledge, that seeks to discover good ways of achieving recognized aims, ends, goals, objectives, or purposes.[5][6] Many political debates revolve around arguments over which of the many "good ways" shall be selected.[7] For example, when presented as scientific information, words such as ecosystem health, biological integrity, and environmental degradation are typically examples of normative science because they each presuppose a policy preference and are therefore a type of policy advocacy.[4][8]

See also


  1. ^ Lackey, Robert T. (2004). "Normative science". Fisheries. American Fisheries Society. 29(7): 38–39.
  2. ^ Ooms, Gorik. (2014). "From international health to global health: how to foster better dialogue between empirical and normative disciplines". BMC International Health and Human Rights. 14: 36. doi:10.1186/s12914-014-0036-5
  3. ^ Lackey, Robert T. (2007). "Science, scientists, and policy advocacy". Conservation Biology. 21(1): 12-17. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00639.x
  4. ^ a b Wilhere, George F. (2012). "Inadvertent advocacy". Conservation Biology. 26(1): 39–46. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01805.x
  5. ^ Sabine, George H. (1912). "Descriptive and normative sciences". The Philosophical Review. 21(4): 433-450. JSTOR 2177252
  6. ^ Brueckner, Martin and Pierre Horwitz. (2005). "The use of science in environmental policy: a case study of the Regional Forest Agreement process in Western Australia". Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy. 1(2): 14–24. doi:10.1080/15487733.2005.11907969
  7. ^ Short, T. L. (2012). "Normative science?" Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society. 48(3): 310–334. JSTOR 10.2979/trancharpeirsoc.48.3.310
  8. ^ Landis, Wayne G. (2007). "The Exxon Valdez oil spill revisited and the dangers of normative science". Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. 3(3): 439–441. doi:10.1002/ieam.5630030312